When it comes to professional cyclists, my knowledge is paradoxical. The more I ride. The more I learn about them. The less I understand.
This month’s cycling hero started as an homage to Milan-San Remo, the first and longest of the true spring classics. The 2015 edition will occur on the 22nd of March and cover an astonishing 181 miles in just under seven hours. It’s an incomprehensible thing. The start to a classics campaign unflinching in its brutality.
Google Milan-San Remo. Find the list of past winners and scroll down. Not surprisingly, Merckx holds the records for the most wins. Poulidor is there. Van Looy, Coppi, Sean Kelly, Zabel, and so many other giants of the sport. One of the most intriguing is a one time winner from Brittany, who was perhaps more famous for grand tours than classics, Louison Bobet.
Louison was the first to win the Tour de France three years in succession (1953 – 1955), and this will always be considered his greatest cycling achievement. But Bobet was also something of a rouleur, able to win several one day races and classics. Milan-San Remo of course, but also Roubaix, Flanders, and the Road World Championship in 1954.
In 1959 Bobet even managed victory in the now defunct Paris-Bordeaux race. 350 miles in one run. It was an effort that could ruin the rest of your season. Yes, for about half of the race you were drafted by a derny, but that doesn’t diminish the effort. Being led or not, Bobet was on his bike for 15 hours 24 minutes and 4 seconds, pedaling as fast as he could. To win a race like that, you need to know suffering. You need to embrace it, and convince yourself that suffering is your natural state.